Here is a story Joe Berry wrote while he was listening to music at the fish fry this last week:
From: Joe Berry
To: Louise Todd
Sent: Monday, April 14, 2014 3:14 AM
LOUISE, YOU ASKED “IS ANY PART TRUE?” …ONLY MY HAIRDRESSER KNOWS.
GLAD YOU ENJOYED. IT’S ALL IMAGINATION, IN MY MIND…
DID YOU AND JERRY GET A COPY OF THE COLLECTION OF MY SHORT STORIES THAT MY GRANDCHILDREN EDITED AND SELF-PUBLISHED? IT’S TITLED UP FOOL’S HILL AND ALMOST DOWN, AND AVAILABLE ON AMAZON [http://www.amazon.com/Up-Fools-Hill-Almost-Down/dp/0989227502/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1397602109&sr=8-1&keywords=FOOL%27S+HILL+AND+ALMOST+DOWN ] . IF YOUR DULCIMER GROUP COULD GIVE MENTION OF THIS BOOK, I WOULD BE GRATEFUL. YOUR GROUP IS WELCOME TO USE ANYTHING I WRITE.
MY TALK ON HUEY LONG IS WEDNESDAY, APRIL 23, 1:00 PM, WILSON HALL, UAH. HOPE YOU CAN COME.
I’LL REWRITE THE RECENT STORY. IF YOU HAVE A CONVENIENT WAY TO DISTRIBUTE THIS STORY TO YOUR GROUP, PLEASE SEND THEM, WHEN RECEIVED, THE RIVISED VERSION. IT WAS WRITTEN FOR THE GROUP AS MY WAY OF SAYING, “THANKS.”
GOOD WISHES, JOE
On Sun, Apr 13, 2014 at 8:35 PM, to Louise Todd
A DIFFERENT NECK OF THE WOODS
(And “Thanks” to my music friends with Athens Dulcimers)
I had tried to shy away from that area for the past sixty-five years. The few times I had gone that way, I had tended to my business and got in and out as soon as I could. But the fish-fry I was invited to was only about halfway to the real trouble spot and it had been long enough since I had my trouble in northeast Mississippi, I took my chances and went
Yesterday was a lot different with my friends and their good music and song. Without a runaway gal, a quart of a Mississippi homebrew, a justice of the peace, the confines of the Walnut, Mississippi jail, a car wreck, and two broken legs, it was a much nicer, quieter, and just an all-round better day. Much better! As my friends made their music, I recalled that neck of the woods further west and my trip to Walnut, Mississippi, sixty-five years ago.
Well, actually my trip was to the Sapps Community a few miles south and west of Walnut. I had gone a call’n on a preacher’s daughter who said she lived there, name of Ruby. I had met Ruby a few weeks earlier in Memphis and Ruby had made a promise to run away with me and get married if I would come to Sapps and ask her daddy for her hand. Said she would meet me there in two weeks and allowed as how she would be mighty proud to marry me in a new dress. I gave her $25 for a new dress and told her I’d be proud to come to Sapps and meet her daddy.
So, I cleaned up my ’37 Ford spic and span. It had the Ford V-8 engine and would run like a jack rabbit. I mean I had that Ford looking like new. I went to Sapps with running away with a real looker on my mind. I was hoping the new dress would be a red one. Bright red, like a Huntsville fire truck.
Got there. Found the church and Ruby’s daddy who laughed when I told him I was call’n for Ruby. He said Ruby took to her own call’n three years earlier and had not been seen at Sapps since she left. Turned out I had wasted two days in polishing up my Ford and driving all the way from New Market for nothing. Now I knew why they called it the Sapps Community. At least, I had saved the $25 I intended to pay the preacher who married me and Ruby. Turned out I needed it.
I got flagged down by a deputy sheriff as I was going back through Walnut. He said I was doing 25 in a 35 zone and he would have to hold me in the Walnut jail until Friday when the justice of peace held his court. It was Monday and I told the deputy that seemed like a mighty long wait.
The deputy smiled and said the justice of peace was a friend of his and was sometimes know to work out special arrangements in hardship cases. The deputy winked at me when he said that and drove me about a mile down the road to see the justice of the peace. Turned out the justice of the peace was the brother of the deputy.
The justice listened to my story. Both he and the deputy smiled when I mentioned Ruby. After the justice listened to my say, he smiled again and mentioned a little “side business” that he had and pointed to a quart jar of homebrew sitting beside the sign on his desk that read, “Justice under the Law, Mercy under the Justice of the Peace”
The label on the quart fruit jar of homebrew read, “Justice is Slow—Mercy Quicker—Get Home Early–$5.” It seemed like buying a a quart of homebrew was the right thing to do.
About the time I reached for my jar of Get Home Early, the deputy said he had another call and I would have to walk back to Walnut for my Ford that had been left parked at the courthouse. The deputy suggested I keep the jar of Get Home Early out-of-sight as I walked through Walnut. The justice of peace handed me a new paper sack, he had a whole stack of new paper sacks, all quart size.
I hoofed it back to town, keeping the pleasure of Get Home Early concealed in the sack, got in my spic and span Ford and made it a half-mile out of Walnut to a big barn on my right. As I passed the barn, I recognized the ’39 Plymouth with the red bubble light on top and the proud sign on the side that read, “County Sheriff.” I kind of thought I might be in trouble, again. I had been doing 35 five in a 45 zone and it was the same deputy.
I was mistaken. The deputy said nothing about my speeding. But on the way to jail, he did explain it was his sworn duty to arrest anyone possessing illegal homebrew in a dry county. He was still friendly, smiling and winking when he said it. At the jail, the deputy rolled-up both of his shirt sleeves. I counted eight wrist watches on his right arm and seven on his left. He grinned and winked again and said, “I’m sort of a watch collector, do you have one you would like to be shed of?”
I got the drift of his invitation to do some business, but I didn’t have a watch. So, I was the first one locked up in the Walnut jail that Monday. By midnight, eight more fellows were locked up with me, all had been arrested by the deputy who arrested me, and all had bought the same quart of Get Home Early from the same justice of peace.
Early the next morning, Tuesday, the smiling deputy told the nine of us that if we would agree to spare the county the cost of feeding us four days as we waited trial, the justice of peace would hold “early court” to hear our cases. The deputy said, “To spare the county costs of utilities and paperwork, the early court is held at the JP’s house and no receipts are issued.”
By this time my ’37 Ford had lost most of its polish and shine and I needed to get back on highway 72, going east to home in Alabama. All nine of us agreed to the early court arrangement. As I paid my last $20 to the JP, I could not help but notice the signs on his desk: “Justice under the Law” and “Get Home Early–$5.” When I left, I had no receipt for my money, nor did I carry a new paper bag. I was leaving the memory of Ruby and justice behind.
I made it safely, all the way past Iuka to that big curve in the road just before you get to the Methodist Church on the left. There, right in the sharp bend of that curve, I met a man driving a big truck loaded with cows. Trouble was, the big truck with all the cows was going west, I was going east, and the big truck was claiming my side of the road. There was not enough of my ’37 Ford left in one piece to measure 24 inches long, cows were scattered all over the road and in the ditches, I wound up with a bodacious headache, and two broken legs.
The Iuka doctors gave me some aspirin for the headache and, in about two weeks, it was gone. The Iuka doctors said my broken legs was too much for them and they shipped me to a hospital in Memphis.
I was laid up in the Memphis hospital almost three months. I didn’t hear nothing from Ruby while I was there. Kind of disappointed, she was a real looker. I didn’t hear anything from that man who was driving the cattle truck, nor his insurance company. Doctors and hospital wanted to be paid, and they deserved it.
I took that truck driver to law, first and only time in my life that I took someone to law. My lawyer was—well, let’s just say he was O K. The lawyer for the insurance company was much better, in a smart-alecky kind of way. He tried to make a monkey out of me, and, I guess, he did.
In the trial, I tried to be honest in tell’n the jury how I got the bodacious headache and two broken legs. Then that insurance lawyer got hold of me. Here’s what was said:
“Now Mr. Berry, is it not true that a state trooper came to the accident scene?”
“Is it not true that you spoke to the state trooper right there at the accident scene?”
“Is it not true that the trooper asked if you were injured and you told him you were not hurt?”
“No sir, it did not happened exactly like that.”
“Well Mr. Berry, why don’t you tell this jury the way it exactly did happen.”
“Yes sir, I’ll try. I was going east, on my side of the road when this big truck, going west, got into that sharp curve. That truck got over on my side of the road, hit me head-on, tore my Ford clean-up. I wound up in a ditch with a bodacious headache and two legs all broken up. Them cows were scattered all over the place. Some standing and hobbling around, so on their side, hollowing and bellowing, couldn’t get to their feet. I’m laying in the ditch, just like the cows that couldn’t get up.
“I must have been in that ditch a half-hour, seemed a lot longer than that, before the state trooper got there. I saw him when he got out of his car and I was glad to see what I thought was help coming.
“No sooner than the trooper got out of his car, one of the cows that lay on the ground between the trooper and me gave a loud bellow and the trooper said, ‘What’s wrong with that cow?’ Someone answered, ‘She’s got a broken leg.’
”No sooner than that was said than the trooper walked over to the bellowing cow, pulled out a hog-leg six-shooter as long as his arm, and BAM! That cow was gone. When that long pistol went “BAM” it sounded like Beauregard had decided to take Fort Sumter again.
“As the trooper made his way in my direction, some more cows on the ground bellowed and were said to have broken legs. Every time that trooper heard “broken leg,” I heard a big a BAM! come roaring out of the mouth of that long pistol.
“When the trooper got over to me, he asked, ‘Is anything wrong with you?’
“With my hurting legs and a bodacious headache, I could not remember how many times that hog-leg had shook the county with a BAM, but I did remember that label on the fruit jar advising that some things will get you home early and I did not want to take any chances. When that trooper asked if anything was wrong with me, I glanced up the hill at the dead cows, all with broken legs and I answered, “No sir, ain’t a damn thing about me hurt.”
Such were my thoughts yesterday, as my friends made good music and shared good food. In the sixty-five year interval between old memories of Ruby, the ’37 Ford and yesterday, I have whetted my taste for fried catfish, good friends and music, and tried to develop the ability to spin a good yarn.
Thank you friends for your food for both body and spirit. As you played, I dreamed of things that had been, may have been, and surely should have been.
Thanks for the story Joe!David B http://athensdulcimerclub.wordpress.com